Hundreds of toddlers are expected to descend on San Francisco’s Pier 35 to race Strider Bikes on Friday and Saturday in the Strider Cup World Championship presented by FedEx.
This is the first time the sixth annual event featuring the no-pedal balance bikes has been held in California. More than 500 toddlers qualified for this weekend’s races this summer in Lincoln, Neb., Salt Lake City and Spokane, Wash.
Japan won three of the four world titles in 2015, but is expected to be challenged by 12 children from Ecuador and other international competitors from as far away as Thailand, Colombia and Canada.
Toddlers as young as 18 months put their Strider Bike skills to the test during these family-friendly races. The event will also feature a free Strider Adventure Zone play area with games and Strider Bikes to test ride; helmets are provided.
“Miss Clo-the-Cow,” the celebrity bovine from Clover Stornetta Farms, will also make an appearance.
Several dozen California racers are signed up, including Napa 3-year-old Jaxson Boehme. His mother, Alyssa Felsch, said he has been riding his Strider balance bike since he was 2½, mostly at the North Bay BMX facility in south Napa.
“Since he started, his confidence has grown so much,” she said. “He is fearless when it comes to hills, and going fast. He enjoys riding his bike with his brother. He enjoys going down the big hill at the track, and trying to keep up with the big kids.
“He’s very excited for the races this weekend. He’s looking forward to getting a Strider jersey and racing with all the other fast racers. What Jaxson enjoys most about racing is he gets to meet new kids and do cool tricks on his bike.
Also signed up are Mason Eastin and his sister, Brooklyn Eastin, of Newark.
Brooklyn, 5, got her Strider Balance Bike when she was 3 and shocked her parents six months later by immediately transitioning to a pedal bike.
“One day, she pointed to a pedal bike and told us she wanted to ride it — without the training wheels,” recalled her father, David Eastin. “We were hesitant, because she had never ridden a pedal bike before, but we took off the training wheels. We just had to hold the seat for her first try. Then, the second time, she was off and pedaling. It was mind-blowing. Riding a Strider Bike gives kids independence and the ability to gain confidence on a bike without the having pressure of having to pedal or push back for braking.”
The Strider Cup World Championship includes the 2-and-under class sponsored by Golden Gate Urgent Care, the 3-year-old class sponsored by Yelp, the 4-year-old class sponsored by Kidz Gear, and the 5-year-old class sponsored by Clover Stornetta Farms.
A typical Strider race features hundreds of parents and grandparents encouraging the participants while ringing bright yellow cowbells as the starting gate drops. Toddlers, some still in diapers, lean forward, kick their short legs, and embark upon their 600-foot-plus journey over obstacles such as dirt mounds and wooden ramps.
All racers are treated to a celebratory podium award ceremony immediately following their main race, where they receive a trophy or medal and pose for the cheering crowd.
Strider recently teamed up with CamelBak to give away 120 Strider Bikes to California youth. Several of those recipients are expected to participate in the Strider Cup World Championship.
The donations included 45 bikes for the Sonoma County Bike Coalition to distribute to local children, and five for the Moms of Petaluma Group.
Strider Cup events also include the Special Needs Races sponsored by CamelBak for athletes of all ages and abilities. Strider is working with Special Olympics Northern California to donate 11 bikes to individuals before the event. These athletes will race the 12-inch models, as well as Strider’s new, larger 16- and 20-inch balance bikes, which the company launched in 2014 specifically for special needs people. Strider has waived the registration fee for riders with special needs.
Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Rapid City, South Dakota, Strider Sports said its mission is to “simplify a bike to its essence, so proper size, weight, and simplicity combine to eliminate any fear of riding and instill confidence in the rider,” which can include seniors wanting to stay active later in life. “The patented Strider Balance Bikes focus on the fundamentals of balancing, leaning, and steering without the distractions and complications of pedals or training wheels. Strider Bikes are now distributed in more than 75 countries worldwide. In 2015, Strider sold its one-millionth bike.”